Blog Action Day logoIt’s Blog Action Day 2008! This year, the focus of thousands of bloggers from around the world is on poverty.

What’s the point of bloggers (over 11,000 at the time of this posting!) all talking about poverty today?  The more people talking about poverty and its related issues, the larger and larger the conversation.  When lots of people start talking about something, they naturally get excited and start sharing ideas and making plans and then start taking action to make change!

So really, Blog Action Day = Action Day!

There are so many bloggers in the discussion today, and many great ideas, organizations and projects highlighted, and so much more – I really encourage you to check out the rolling list of participating blogs to read more and jump into the conversation!

Here’s what I’m thinking…

The social web is really about aggregation and redistribution. So, we should be pulling together opportunities for people to do something about poverty, both locally and on a global scale.  Many groups, individuals and even platforms are working on doing this already, at least for social change in general, including poverty-related actions.  Tools like SocialActions aggregate the social web of social actions for you, and then let you repurpose the results the way you want – like in a widget on your blog, on an automatic footer, etc.  SocialActions still has a long way to go with how much functionality and opportunity it hopes to provide users, so check it out and see how you can participate!

We should also be pulling together and pushing out resources and information about services for people in poverty looking for help.  I’ve seen this take shape in various forms, including One Economy’s Beehive websites that provide localized information and connections to services.  But, I still think there is a lot more to be done that doesn’t require too much ‘new’ work, just new combinations.

What if…

What if there was a way that someone looking for a social service could use a touch screen monitor in a grocery store to locate the physical building where they could get help? Grocery stores are much more abundant and easily accessed than pretty much anything else in most cities, and using the touch screen monitor means you have much less technological experience required to use the tool.  Finding the address, the specific services available, hours of operation, etc. in an easy-to-access way means that person could then get on the bus, taxi, or walk to the location without having to find one social service facility just to start the process.  I love maps though, so we should add in some mapping to the process 🙂 maybe a map can show all of the locations providing the service needed and the user can pick and choose if they want.

What if there was a shared technology van for your city that would travel between homeless shelters, social service centers, and adult education facilities providing exposure and on-the-spot training to individuals on using a computer, a digital camera, navigating the web, creating an email account, etc.? This would give people facing an uphill battle to find a job and improve their financial/economic situation some basic tools to be on their way to working in an office or even just participating in the technology-heavy demands of the 21st century.  One van wouldn’t need to cost that much, especially if a national organization was behind it and regulating it.  I’m sure that software and hardware developers (whether it is laptops, cameras, video cameras, phones, or computer applications, etc.) out there would gladly donate machines or discount them (just think of how many people they are helping to become customers!); the vehicles could be donated or discounted or come from vehicle donation services; staffing of the vehicle could be a full-time standard hour job paid for by a grant or membership fees that are very small contributed/combined from all of the facilities who have a share of the exposure.

What do you guys think of either of those ideas?  Are they doable?  Do you have better ideas?  I’d LOVE to hear them!

Blog Action Day: Global Poverty
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  • I think the touchscreen idea is fabulous! The technology van is innovative but I see obstacles – are all of these service locations going to have wireless? Maybe people need to get used to a mouse before they get used to a touchpad, and mobile devices in general are a step up from just basic desktop literacy. Bravo for thinking outside the box and thanks for pointing out SocialActions – I look forward to exploring that further.

  • Your ideas are great! I’m glad to see you post about the role of technology in eradicating poverty. I work for an organization called Millennium Promise and our work is premised on the belief that our generation can end extreme poverty, hunger and preventable disease. We work in 80 villages in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa implementing interventions in agriculture, education, health and infrastructure – including infrastructure for mobile phone and internet technology. It’s amazing how communications technology can help the rural poor connect to markets, health services and other essentials that can help break the cycle of poverty. To learn more about our work, visit our web site at http://www.millenniumpromise.org.

  • Great post, I myself wrote one at: http://www.guruofsales.com/general/427/fight-poverty-its-blog-action-day-today and the action has not stopped. Would you share your thoughts by a comment there as well?

  • I love the idea of a touch-screen “helper” too. I love the UK’s idea of having citizen’s advice bureaus around the country, and a touch-screen information kiosk that refers people to particular services would be a great addition to the advice bureaus, particularly for people who are embarrassed or reluctant to seek help in the first instance.

  • I love maps, too and use them to focus volunteers and donors on the poverty neighborhoods in Chicago where volunteer based tutor/mentor programs are needed, and where nearly 200 are constantly searching for support.

    You can see some of the maps at http://mappingforjustice.blogpot.com and you can search a zip code map at http://www.horizonmapping.net/projects/tmc/tmc_gallery/Tutor_Mentor_inter_maps.html

    As other cities duplicate this process events like Blog Action Day can serve as advertising to get the attention of potential volunteers, donors and business partners. This can also connect different programs with each other for networking and idea sharing.

  • Dan, Thanks for pointing us to your project and awesome example of maps in use!

    Katrina, Thanks for leaving your comment and sharing information about Millennium Promise! Technology holds such potential for helping end poverty and other issues both in developing countries and in our ‘first world’ nations. Thanks again!

    Alex, Thanks for sharing your Blog Action Day post with us!

    Priscilla, Thanks for weighing in! I think you bring up a great point that the information kiosks wouldn’t serve only people in extreme poverty or need, but could help those on the fringe who may be embarrassed to ask someone personally where to find social services they need. If you were putting these kiosks in place, where would you put them? I suggested grocery stores as a possible location but don’t know that it necessarily is the best.

    Laura, Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I definitely see your point about the obstacles involved in the tech van idea. What obstacles come to mind for the kiosk idea? Glad to share Social Actions with you!

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  • I’m a little late weighing in, but I just found this blog, and am really interested in what you guys are talking about.

    I’ve been fascinated by how much technology increasingly becomes essential to our lives… and I often wonder what kinds of things that I currently take for granted or just consider “normal” (Facebook, texting, COMPUTERS!, etc.) will I consider outrageous when my kids are in their twenties? And I’m excited to see how this technology thread will align with the thread of social justice that has been increasingly become more prevalent over the last few years. How will the two interact?

    I work for a company called ClientTrack (www.clienttrack.net) that uses technology to help nonprofits and governmental organizations do lots of cool things, like increasing operational efficiency (saving time and money – always a plus), ensuring compliance, and allowing them to quantify and broadcast their social impact. Every time I see a demo of our software, I get GIDDY because I can’t believe what a difference technology can make in helping incredible organizations like nonprofits actually further their missions. ClientTrack and all the tech geniuses that work here have definitely shown me that stuff like touch-screens in grocery stores are a real possibility. I hope that our software can increasingly play a role in addressing serious issues like poverty. If you’re interested, check out our website.

  • Hi Kate – I apologize for the late response! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and sharing your organization’s work with readers! I really appreciate you weighing in and am happy to hear that organizations are out there developing the technologies nonprofits need to help make this world better!

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